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« Sali watch, continued | Main | Midweek roundup »


Julie Fanselow

Via MountainGoat Report, here's a link to a Spokesman Review story in which Sali complains he's the victim of a nationally orchestrated smear campaign.

Uh, Rep. Sali, you brought this entirely on yourself.


In addition to freedom of religion, we have freedom of speech - and you can't expect your comments to go unaddressed.


Julie, I think you're being waaaay too generous, even if you're being rather tongue-in-cheek. Sali loves playing the victim, in such a way that he actually benefits from the victimization of others. He can't even tolerate ten minutes of official attention be paid to something that does not buttress his own power. It's pathetic.


Actually Sara, I found it to be a very thoughtful argument against the fundamentalism of Bill Sali et al.


Yeah I'm having a hard time with the victim theme.

I got a plan. Lets rename the war on terrorism to the war on religious extremism. Then round up all the folks who seek to use government to shove their belief system down everyone else's throat. This would include the Taliban and al Qaeda, basically all those that insist their god is the only and one true god and are willing to kill or die for that notion or any attending notions.

Lets get an island put 'em all on it and let 'em play a Machiavellian form of survivor. The Christians can choose some tests like the one's they used for testing witches: dunking militant Muslims in water. If they float they are heretics and must be burned. If they don't then they are pure and can ascend into heaven. The other groups have other equally sound tests I'm sure. If not we can alwys use the Inquistion model.

The winner gets to keep the island but can never leave safe in the knowledge that through sheer might their god has won. It satiates their need to insist they are right and to kill for their god. It leaves the rest of us in peace to continue our own path to spritiual enlightnment in a more tolerant world.

Diana Rowe Pauls

"War on Religious Extremism"

I agree 100%... talk about holding people responsible for what is really creating the problem...


I just don't feel comfortable with the implication that Sali doesn't need to take responsibilty for these abhorrent and pig-headed positions he's taking. He's benefiting from putting others down, and he needs to quit it and apologize.


Hey Sis, I do agree with your premise that the goal should be eliminating religious extremism. But I have to disagree with the methods, even if they are meant in jest.

I can appreciate your frustration and your desire to make the world a better place, but honestly, and I say this with affection and respect, I don't think those kind of statements are helpful.


Sara, I completely agree that he needs to apologize. I think part of Julie's point is that Sali has been duped by his own fundamentalist beliefs and doesn't even realize it. Not that he's actually a victim himself or doesn't deserve to be held accoutable for his words.



You write, "it is critical that we use the word fundamentalist to describe Sali and other Christian zealots, because it helps explain that they share the same mindset as fundamentalists of other religions, including Islam."

Sisyphus then expands,

"are willing to kill or die for that notion"

"to kill for their god."

Forgive me for dissenting, but I still think there is a huge difference between Christian fundamentalists and Islamic fundamentalists. The difference is found in Sisyphus's words.

I have seen it written on this site in the past that Adam is a fundamentalist. However, I do not see the same rhetoric or, more importantly, the same violent actions coming from Adam that I read about every day coming from Islamic fundamentalists.

This is not to say that Islam is wrong, or to echo or excuse Rep. Sali's words. I think what he said was wrong. I think the three protestors of the Hindu prayer in the Senate were misguided. The difference, though, is that they didn't have bombs strapped to them and their children at the time.

Julie Fanselow

Great discussion. Thanks, everyone, for reading and chiming in. I'll work backward ...

Cameron, I hear what you are saying. But the fact is, tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have died as a result of an unjust war in Iraq. The leaders of our nation have blood on their hands just as surely as if they'd gone over to Iraq and done the killing themselves. But these men who never served in the military would never do this killing on their own. Instead, they send young soldiers to do the work for them under false pretenses. I do not blame these soldiers. The blame lies squarely with Bush. And many people like Bill Sali and Adam Graham believe Bush was ordained by God to be president. They may not themselves be violent people, but they are condoning violence by supporting this administration. Do you see where I'm headed here?

The hecklers in Congress did not blow people up because they'd never be able to take bombs into the Senate. In our society, we try to balance our freedoms with safety for the greater good. This usually works pretty well, although in recent years, freedoms have been excessively stripped away in the name of safety - but often simply to stifle dissent.

MG and Sara, yes, I do absolutely believe Sali must be accountable for his words and actions. It's not my desire to excuse him, but to try and shine some light on why he behaves as he does.

Sis, your reality-TV scenario serves our id's desire for revenge against mindless zealots. After six years of institutionalized zealotry in our nation, it's tempting indeed to envision such justice. But as I said, I think we need to isolate fundamentalists and wage "war" on terror in more benign ways - with occasional surgical strikes on terrorists when we have them in our sights (rather than full-blown preemptive warfare that kills and displaces tens of thousands); with foreign aid and international coalitions to promote education and small business development; with the power of the pen and keyboard for truth-telling; and yes, Sara, with generosity and love.


MG, by way of explanation, one of my undergraduate degrees is in the history of western civilization which is basically the history of the church. The history is not pretty, replete with war, murder, torture, rape, all kinds of inhumanity, suppresion of science and reason, all in the name of God. This history has made me very jaded but it also stands as a testament that those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.

It is that self same history that pursuaded the founding fathers to keep government and religion separate particularly in light of so many American immigrants fleeing religious persecution. My comments were certainly meant to show the irony, and to highlight the absurdity, of perpetuating the mindset in light of this history albeit in a modern setting. It was offered in jest and upon reflection I have a dark sense of humor, but so did Monty Python. I offer no apologies however and I will not tiptoe around the issues such being tantamount to self censorship of historical fact. The consequences of this rhetoric, whether from Sali or the Taliban, are too great.

Nice to see you get feisty. Thanks for your comment.

Julie Fanselow

Sara, one more thing: I don't believe Bill Sali will benefit from his abhorrent words nor his pigheaded positions. In fact, I hope he will ultimately be either shamed into resigning or, failing that, he'll get his butt kicked in the GOP primary next year.


Cameron. Watch Jesus Camp. The folks that run the camp do so in direct response to, and arguably end up emulating, Islamic fundamentalism. Granted they are not strapping bombs to the kids but they are certainly laying the groundwork for it.


Julie, I hope not, but we do see lots of people who benefit from this kind of behavior. Robert Vasquez, Tom Tancredo, Jerry Fallwell. Sali is just plain wrong, and I don't think he's been brainwashed, I just don't think he cares.


Sis, I appreciate irony as much as the next person but some would take your comment at face value and use that to undermine your very valid premise.

Julie Fanselow

This reminds me of a story:

I was canvassing in a Meridian neighborhood last fall and saw a photo of the Black Knight from Monty Python's Holy Grail posted by a front door. You know the scene - the one where Arthur lops off all his extremities and the knight is still spoiling for a fight. (It's only a flesh wound!)

Delighted, I was sure the people in this house had to be Democrats, for only Democrats or feisty independents - and perhaps the odd moderate Republican - can truly appreciate the Pythons' absurdist humor. But in fact, the woman who answered the door was a die-hard Republican who said she never votes for Democrats.

I was left to wonder why she did post the Black Knight photo. Maybe not so much as a fan girl icon, but as a warning to intruders?


This is such an excellent discussion. Thanks, Julie, for sparking such a thoughtful thread. I hope that this episode with Sali sparks similar discussion off of blogs and among thinking people everywhere. Keep me posted on whether any more local media picks it up.


Great story Julie. Point taken MG although I'm not sure you do appreciate irony as much as the next person. After all its the next person you're worried about. Besides I thought of that and am certainly prepared to defend my remarks. Cameron took a shot and I hope he understands that Americans (not to be equated with Christians) have innocent blood on our hands. And if not, he can continue to endeavor to make his relativist point. And Julie's response underscores a central perception of our war in Iraq which we ignore at our peril.

In the end Julie's piece is about education and tolerance as tools in the struggle against ignorance and fear. I definitely don't want my hyperbolic hypothetical to detract from that message or to be twisted into hate speech which I take is your point. But frankly I am uncertain of exactly how that will be done (How does one express intolerance for people who lack tolerance without the use of irony?). The example I cite as a survivor contest is an historical method used not only against alleged witches but against Muslims and Jews during the Inquisition. And I'm not sure how postulating a method by which the haters could exist in an exclusive environment fulfilling their very intense desires on each other while leaving the rest of us alone would offend anyone. I highly recommend Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal if you haven't read it.

I'm certainly more prepared than Sali to justify my comments because history is on my side and I'm educated on it. All he has is his subjective interpretation of scripture and cherry picked out of context statements of certain historical documents. I recognize the propensity of politicians, media and bloggers to engage in similar tactics but it must also be tempered with my right to make my point. Your concern is valid but reacting on it feels like I'm being muzzled which causes me to chafe. I hope you don't let this trouble you overly much on your blog.

But upon further reflection my comment does detract from Julie's excellent point that religions and religious people have accomplished great things for the benefit of humanity. Too bad they have had to overcome the stigma of their less tolerant brethren. Christians displaying such a lack of tolerance leads to the absurdity.


Sis, I do appreciate irony...as much as the next?...yeah I'd argue that I do. It wasn't that long ago that some of these religious extremists were discussing exiling all gays and those who were HIV positive to a island somewhere.

I thought that was wrong then and it would be hypocritical of me to not speak out when I hear a similar idea postulated, even an ironic, historically accurate one meant in jest.

Not trying to muzzle you or your free speech, just speaking out for tolerance even for those who don't deserve it.

And of course, open discussion and disagreement is healthy and never troubles me. This is a good thing in my eyes.

Tara Rowe

Sis, I have a hard time agreeing with your statement that the history of western civilization is "basically the history of the Church."

And, what you are suggesting, though in jest as MG points out, frankly scares me more than Swift ever has with his not so modest proposal.


You have good eyes but I don't think the comparison is apt. I did use the phrase "round up" which would lead one to conclude exile. But frankly I thought it would be a proposal the intolerant would welcome since they could enjoy their intolerance with impunity and their prize would be a long sought after but absurd goal. Not knowing your religious affiliation but I'd say your tolerance of the intolerant is very...Christlike.

OK dead horse beaten. Did you hear the one about the multiculturalist, the pagan, and the rabbi....? Never mind.

Thanks as always for the dialogue.


One aspect of Sali's comments that has been underplayed is his revisionist history regarding the philosophical influences of the Founders.

It is common among fundamentalists to paint the founding of this country as an outpouring of Christian teaching into a divinely-inspired Constitution. In this mythology, the Declaration of Independence and Constitution are natural outgrowths of Christian scripture -- political analogs to the Old Testament Mosaic law and New Testament teachings. (This framing of history somewhat reminds me of Mormon mythology where a Judaic tribe somehow makes it to the New World and fulfills the promises of ancient scripture).

This view is so historically inaccurate it's embarrassing to even rebut it, since it doesn't take more than a high school understanding of US history to realize that the philosophers of the Scottish Enlightenment had far more influence on the political thinking of the Founders than did the Ten Commandments or Pauline letters.


You know I find it interesting how folks choose to see hate speech and the places where it is very acceptable.

Not because I have some amazing answer, just because I find it odd the way we pretend to be all offended (and on occasion are) and yet not willing to look at the big picture of where it comes from.

I think Julie you are trying that next step, but the real step is the one that follows.

For example if a child at school says to another child you are a (insert nasty racist comment) and the truth is (a) it is a child and (b) one of the first words they learned at home .....then what is the appropriate punishment for what was said? WHO should be punished?

If Don Imus says something that offends, and then folks come out and say wait?!!! Where were they all the times before, and what of the MANY folks that found the speech ok, comfy, normal and acceptable. What of those folks? They get a free ride out of scandal after all, they didn't say it and golly gee sure they nodded along before but that was "different".

Just seems people are all to willing to be annoyed with Sali, even though he is acting just like he always has and has been supported for in the past. Who is to blame and be held accountable?

Just him because after all he is an adult. His preachers/teachers and peers that believe as he does? The people of Idaho that have nodded along?

Never really as simple as dealing with the one offending mouth piece it seems...




To address a couple of your points:

"tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have died as a result of an unjust war in Iraq."

The truth is, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were tortured, raped, and murdered before the Iraq War ever started. Iraqi civilians would still be dying even had the US never intervened.

The sectarian violence was not caused by the Iraq War. It has been going on for centuries. The way I see it, the only way it's going to end is to use either the Hussein approach to its natural conclusion, or let the factions make peace with each other.

Of course, Islamic fundamentalists do not want peace. It was them, remember, that ignited the sectarian violence to its current intensity by blowing up the mosque. They continue to cause the violence. They continue to own the blame for the violence. They are welcome to stop at any time.

"The hecklers in Congress did not blow people up because they'd never be able to take bombs into the Senate."

Is that the only reason? Is the US completely safe from suicide bombers? What separates this country from Iraq right now? Either we just don't have people here crazy enough to blow themselves up, or our country just has more security measures in place. The former proves my point about fundamentalism in the US. The latter would speak to increased military in Iraq. I think the difference in the two countries is a little of both.


Oh Cameron, keep drinking the koolaid. The fact of the matter is that religion often compels people to irrational acts including violence. And it happens right here in the US of A.
For recent examples see this, http://www.religioustolerance.org/abo_viol.htm

Remember Waco? How about the Aryan Nations? Ever hear of the Lambs of Christ?

For more examples look here:
Look under "M" if you think your religion is immune.

It also displays a remarkable lack of depth of understanding to throw around generalizations like: "The sectarian violence was not caused by the Iraq War". Let's review: little sectarian violence before the war because country ruled by ruthless dictator. We invade, disband the army and outlaw the B'ath party effectively unemploying hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people who 1)have any knowledge of the civil service administration of government in Iraq; 2) have any knowledge on how to keep order; 3) have skills with weaponry including explosives; and most importantly 4)now have tons of time on their hands and no visible means of support. It sounds like a recipe for disaster to me. To say we had nothing to do with sectarian violence is quite laughable. Especially in light of this 1994 prognostication: http://redstaterebels.typepad.com/red_state_rebels/2007/08/what-cheney-sai.html

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